Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grown In Detroit

Who read the NYT magazine today? Did you read that there are no national chain grocery stores within the city limits of Detroit? More than 90% of food is purchased at liquor and convenience stores. Unbelievable. And while the good news is that backed by organizations such as Urban Farming and Grown In Detroit people are growing their own food and learning from others how to cook this food,the bad news is: summer is over.

I'm from Michigan and irregardless of climate change, winter will come to Detroit. And what?
And what? No gardening then. What will people eat?

Though I'm happy to read of the changes and the community that is growing strong and adapting to the paucity of available food, I still am sad and I worry. What has this country done to itself?

This morning GG and I shopped for our weekly staples at Trader Joe's and made a side trip to Whole Foods to pick up our ecologically and politically correct meat and poultry. We live 3 miles outside of D.C.. There are government jobs, construction all around us, new restaurants and bars opening weekly. The expensive farmers markets are packed and we all carry our own bags whenever we shop.

But we live in a bubble here. And I wish I knew how to help those whose bubble popped a long hungry time ago.

First step: remember to be grateful for all that we have.

What's the second step?


  1. Hi Jane, thank you for writing about NYT magazine's article- I'll be sure to check it out - and this issue in general. I'd heard about the growing urban gardening and farm-to-school movements in Detroit, but not the city's dire food accessibility situation. It's an issue I'd heard of in more rural areas of California's Central Valley (ironically, where so much produce is grown), but never in such a major city. It's definitely a troubling reality that deserves more attention.

  2. hi jane,

    if you could solve this problem you could prob be elected president.


  3. In the UK we feel sad that so many of the small independent bakers, butchers, greengrocers, fishmongers that used to be on the high street of every town or city district have closed due to the out of town big supermarkets. The national chains are often seen as 'baddies' in this light, ruining fine local businesses and killing off commercial life in the town centres.In the smartest areas (Notting Hill, Marylebone in London etc) these often expensive small food specialists have come back but are often out of the price-range of ordinary folk. The reality I suppose is the big supermarkets do offer a huge, affordable range.

    Do your cities not have the the small butchers, bakers etc that could offer, piecemeal, what the supermarkets offer? It is really troubling that whole city populations don't have access to decent quality food. Get Jamie Oliver on the case!

  4. to grow a vegatable and herb garden at homes!!

  5. We're in the same situation as Belinda - the choice is between large supermarkets filled predominantly with processed food, and small specialist shops who struggle to compete with their prices. The latter make for a more peaceful shopping experience. I think you guys are way ahead of us in having decent supermarkets and generally available non-exploitative food.

  6. MFG, thanks for your heartfelt response. Shameful isn't it? And this is probably only the tip of the iceberg.

    Janet, No running for President, too many background checks!

    Belinda, I'm not a huge advocate of chain groceries. Especially inner city ones where the prices are higher and the food less fresh. Most of our cities have all you can eat, small and large markets. but Detroit has no jobs, no money, hence no markets. Simple, horrifying econonics.

    Maria Cecilia, They have begun to grow their own, but there are 12 months in the year and if they don't know how to preserve of freeze the fresh foods, the long winter months are nutrition free. plus with no supermarkets where do you get your staples?

    Mise, We are lucky, at least those of us in affluent areas. Those who live in productive rural areas should also be able to eat well, it's the inner city and the rural poor who suffer with no jobs, no markets, no options.

  7. Jane, thanks so much for calling attention to this issue. I'm with you on the first step, have no idea what the second step should be. Janet's right, anybody who can solve this problem should be president, and unfortunately, there are probably a LOT of good people out there, like you, who wouldn't pass the background check (me included haha!).

  8. 2nd Step.

    Eat everything before it is gone.

    Ja, it's an interesting question. Our local Trader Joe's is putting some small grocery stores that sell good fresh produce in the pinch, as they cannot compete with their prices.

    But New York is also a bubble. Until you get to areas near Projects that sell food only from bodegas, processed deluxe.

    And then I have educated friends who could care less about organic.

    But I did not know about Detroit. We could move there en masse, buy up warehouses, make lofts, plant the roofs and the back lots? And drive American cars?????

  9. Sorry for a second comment, but I am so staggered, am still trying to get my head around this? I guess the convenience store, not a term we use over here, is like a mini supermarket, say attached to a petrol-station or a small corner shop? It is unbelievable. Should there be government run food suppliers where for-profit companies fear to tread? Who would pay for the costs?

    I guess many people resort to fastfood.

    I am wondering now how big the deprived areas in the UK are with a similar situation. I think the chains are pretty far reaching and the distances are so much smaller here generally. V interesting post, Jane.

  10. It's partly an economic issue. The big national grocers don't want to pay the extra cost of security in poor [read "crime ridden"] neighborhoods, so the folks who live there are robbed of the opportunity to purchase good nutritious food at reasonable prices. Anyone of us who lives in a large city can go to a grocery - perhaps the same chain we shop at in our neighborhood - and we will find the prices higher. The very folks who can afford it least, are charged the highest prices. It's a national disgrace!

    We seem to have lost all thought of being in this life together and responsible for our neighbors, too. It's all me, me, me! Thanks for shining some light, Jane.

  11. How interesting this is - but as you say, what's to be done...? You are lucky to be able to shop as you wish and have lovely produce. And you are so right about us being grateful for what we have. x

  12. Life In Small Chunks, Then again, I've never been arrested, so maybe...a grassroots campaign via blogs. let's do it!

    Marie, I'll go if you go, but I don't think they make cars there anymore...hence the job problem. Last time I drove thru Detroit I was in a vintage alfa romeo, it was not a secure feeling. I would always shop the little guys if there were any around within walking distance. But we do our best to keep everybody in business, eaters that we are.

    Belinda, I know how you feel, it's almost impossible to think of an entire city without even 1 grocery store. Webb has a great explanation for this. A friend just told me the SE section of D.C. was without a big store until recently, the city funded it. At least we have a good metro system and people could ride to my neck of the woods in Virginia and shop. But still.

    Webb, thank you for such a clear explanation of the problem. And you're right, it is a national disgrace. Shame on us.

    Semi Expat, We are lucky. we are not the richest people in our town, by a long shot, florists not being highly overpaid, but we eat as well as if not better that those who buy 5 rib eyes to our one extravagant ( to us) flank steak. I can't imagine not having the options. Our lab eats better than many people.

  13. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer! It is so true. I bet the top men from all those car companies walked away with enough to retire elsewhere happily for the rest of their lives!!!!
    The world is becoming a very sad place but as long as we are kept aware of what's happening I believe we can improve it!